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Norwalk Music Festival is 'good family fun'

Cary Ashby • Jul 3, 2019 at 10:00 AM

The family-friendly Norwalk Music Festival is returning to the Huron County Fairgrounds for the Fourth of July weekend.

The seventh annual festival starts with the first of nine performances at 3 p.m. Thursday. The free event will consist of performances by local and area bands, food and drinks from street-vendors and more. 

Music returns at 12:30 p.m. Friday and runs until 9:45. About 10 bands will perform Saturday, starting at 12:30.

Festival attendees are encouraged to bring their families, lawn chairs and “your instruments because this is one jam-friendly festival,” according to the festival website, www.NorwalkMusicFestival.com.

“Last year about 900 people came through the gates. We had about 120 campers stay the week with us,” festival spokesman Kurt Hickman said. “We’ve had (a) good turnout.”

“It’s good family-friendly fun,” said Hickman, of Berlin Heights, who plays upright bass in the trio Breakline. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Breakline is one of 15 bands slated to play in the festival’s concert. The acoustic trio consists of Norwalk’s Jerri and Mike Hipp, (on mandolin and guitar, respectively), and Hickman on the bass. The traditional bluegrass-rooted trio is also known for performing swing music, with some of their sets including songs from the 1920s through 1940s.

“We play that old Western swing,” Hickman said.

Breakline has been together for nearly 12 years since “just playing some music in the kitchen.” Five to six years ago, the trio started lining up gigs.

While country and bluegrass are the genres mostly played in Norwalk Music Festival, the bands performing will still offer a variety within those.

“When I go to a festival, I get tired of the same kind of music,” Hickman said.

Ohio-based Acoustic Edge plays a mix of country and alternative music. Meanwhile, Bootleg sticks to country favorites from the 1960s and 70s.

Caney Creek, out of Akron, is described on the band’s Facebook page as playing “traditional, hard driving bluegrass music.”

The Ottawa County Bluegrass Band, from the Port Clinton area, has been performing since the late 1990s. The group consists of: Vern Brink (bass), Joe Mitchell Sr. (mandolin), Joe Mitchell Jr. (banjo) and Dennis Mitchell (guitar). Brink, of Gibsonburg, took over on bass after the retirement of Archie Stinson.

Harbourtown is a bluegrass band based out of northern Ohio and southern Michigan. It was formed in 1975 by Hickman, the former band leader, “who gave a great approximate run of 35 years to the business,” according to its Facebook page.

Other bands performing at the festival are: Hammertowne, Danny Paisley and Southern Grass, the Edgar Loudermilk Band, Larry Efaw and the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Tony Holt and the Wildwood Valley Boys, Out of Mind Bluegrass, Kyle Jarvis & IIIrd Generation, The Relentless Mules, Crabgrass as well as Red, White and Bluegrass.

Proceeds from the non-profit festival will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association. One of the traditions in the three-day event is to present the group with a check, and recently, the festival raised about $2,200.

Hickman, whose father died in 2014 from an illness “in the Alzheimer’s family,” was a first-hand witness to the anxiety that the disease caused his mother since she was her husband’s caregiver.

“Basically there’s no cure for it,” Hickman said.

In recent years, the Norwalk Music Festival has presented one $250 scholarship each to students in the Norwalk and Firelands school districts.

“We did not do it last year, but we are doing it this year,” said Hickman, with sponsorships being on the rise.

“There used to be a (similar) festival here in the 1990s,” added the musician, who noted that was part of the inspiration for creating the current incarnation. “Everyone who comes to it loves it because of the variety of the bands.” 

For ticket information and more, go to www.NorwalkMusicFestival.com or find the festival on Facebook.

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